Cougar Nation will be treated to back-to-back games Saturday. The WSU football team will take on the Arizona State in Tempe in the afternoon. Later in the evening, the WSU basketball team will kick of their 2008-09 schedule as they host Mississippi Valley State.
Coincidence or serendipitous, Washington State will face the devil twice in the same day. Coach Paul Wulff's football team will take on the Sun Devils while Coach Tony Bennett's basketball team will oppose the Delta Devils.
Coach Bennett has taken Cougar basketball to heights never imagined or dreamed of by the heartiest of Cougs.
The past two seasons, Coach Bennett's teams benefited from a core of players that were all a part of the class of 2008. Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low and Robbie Cowgill have graduated. Weaver is playing in the NBA and Low is a pro ball star in Australia. Cowgill is living his faith as a leader in Pullman campus ministry.
How do you replace three four-year starters?
For the past couple of seasons, the Cougs have enjoyed suiting up one of the more seasoned rosters in the Pac-10. Not this year my friends.
Washington State has one of the youngest rosters in the country with seven true freshman and two more red shirt freshmen on scholarship.
This team won't be all about youth.
Two solid seniors return for Coach Bennett.
A slimmer, quicker and more confident Aron Baynes will anchor the front line at center. Baynes has made tremendous progress the past couple of seasons and looks to close out his college career on a high note.
To win in the Pac-10, it's critical to have a strong center. In Baynes, the Cougs have one of the best in the conference.
The other senior on this squad is the quiet, unsung hero who runs the offense for WSU, point guard Taylor Rochestie. Look for Rochestie to do more scoring this year to pick up the slack from departed scoring machine Low. Before transferring to WSU, Rochestie was a big time scorer at Tulane and has improved his game every year. Rochestie can and will welcome the chance to become the go-to-guy for a bucket.
Of the incoming freshmen, three names jump out at you as potential contributors beginning Saturday night.
Klay Thompson was the California Division III Player of the Year last season. Thompson can score. He has a great feel for the game which creates opportunities for his teammates. Given his athletic ability, Thompson will learn to play tough defense under the tutelage of Coach Bennett.
DeAngelo Casto was the prep player of the year in Washington last season. Casto is an athletic freak. The kid can jump out of the gym to grab a rebound. Add to his hops a long and lanky wingspan. He is bad news for opponents trying to drive the lane or attempt shots near the basket. Casto lives to block shots.
Marcus Capers is what Coach Bennett describes as a "slasher" and will remind folks of Kyle Weaver in many ways. He's incredibly quick and plays smothering defense.
So tomorrow night the basketball season begins for Washington State.
What about the Cougars opponent?
It doesn't really matter does it? The game will be a tune up for both teams. Granted, can't remember who the other guys are which should be a clue as to the gravity associated with the game. That's not smack talk. You'll have to look elsewhere for that. It's just reality.
Just took a quick glance at the beginning of this article. The Cougs will face Mississippi Valley State. Trust me. The Delta Devils are looking at this game as a tune up as well. No smack, just the way it is at the beginning of the season.
Last time Washington State had this many young players on the roster, Coach Dick Bennett was rebuilding the Cougar basketball program from the ground up. That foundation is set in place.
Don't be surprised if this becomes another 20+ win season for the Cougs.